PARIS Top-ranked Roger Federer moved closer to an elusive French Open title when he beat Romanian Victor Hanescu 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-3 Tuesday to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros for the first time.
Federer, whose previous best result on the Paris
clay was a quarterfinal appearance in 2001, became the second
active player behind Andre Agassi to have reached the
semifinals at four consecutive Grand Slam events.
"Being in the semifinals for the first time here is great,"
said top-seeded Federer, who has yet to drop a set.
"I'm very satisfied with my game and my form so far. I feel
I have plenty of energy left. I'm glad to be able to prove that
I can do well in this tournament."
The elegant Swiss, who has won every Grand Slam tournament
except this one, now meets Nadal in what could be one of the great matches of 2005.
"I guess it's 50-50 who will win," Nadal said, looking ahead
to his match against top seed Federer on Friday, when he will be
hoping to celebrate his 19th birthday by reaching his first
Grand Slam final.
"I will play my own way, with lots of fight. I'm very calm
now, more than when I came here, because I know I'm playing at a
very good level."
Gifted Nadal confirmed he could shatter Federer's dreams
of his first triumph in the French capital when he crushed
fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 to reach the last four.
"Well, everybody's been looking forward a little bit to this
one with both of us for the first time in the semifinals of a
French Open," Federer said.
"It's going to be really interesting to see. For me, it's a
big moment. It's one of those chances, you know, to maybe walk
away with the title here. But I've still got two tough matches."
Federer, who often has struggled at the French, losing in the first round
in two of the last three years, has a chance to become
the sixth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles.
After winning the first set easily, Federer underlined his
determination by fighting back from a break down in the second
to force a tie break, which he took 7-3 with a service winner on
No. 90 Hanescu who, like Federer, is 23 mounted a brave
challenge in that second set but then collapsed, with Federer
building a 5-1 lead in the third set to serve for the match.
Federer then showed signs of nerves for the first time, wasting
two match points and losing his serve after committing three
When the Swiss star served for the match again, Hanescu survived another
match point before bowing out by hitting a forehand long after
just over two hours of play.
Nadal, who is bidding to become the first player to win the clay Grand Slam on his first try since Mats Wilander in 1982, saved a set point in the first set before stamping his authority on the match.
Ferrer, the last Spaniard to beat Nadal on clay, needed treatment on his back in the second set. His younger opponent showed no mercy as he unleashed his full repertoire of shots, clinching victory in 2 hours, 8 minutes.
Ferrer had beaten champion Gaston Gaudio in the previous
round, coming back from 4-0 down in the fifth set to win a match
lasting more than four hours.
He was a match for Nadal in the opening set and had the
youngster in trouble at 15-40 in the 10th game as Nadal served
to stay in the first set.
Nadal showed exactly why he has become such a formidable
force this year by saving both set points, and another later in
the game, and immediately broke Ferrer's serve before clinching
the opener in 66 minutes.
From then on Ferrer, the third most successful player this
year on clay, was chasing shadows as Nadal romped away to a 15th
successive victory against fellow Spaniards.
Fourth-seeded Nadal has won 22 consecutive matches, all on clay, including Masters Series titles in Monte Carlo and Rome.